Archives For Game Recap

After four days of rest, practice, and preparation the Lakers took down the Warriors 102-95 to get within a game of .500 and show off some very good play on both sides of the ball.

The star of the night was Pau Gasol, whose 24 points and 10 rebounds paced the team. Pau, who seemed to most benefit from the time off, played with a good base and strong legs all night which allowed him to really shine offensively. Pau showed good lift on his jumper, leading to good success from mid-range. That success then fueled the rest of his offense as it forced defenders to close out on him, allowing the Spaniard to effectively use his dribble to set up some nifty post moves that kept defenders off balance all night.

The other stars offensively came off the Lakers’ bench. First was a very productive Jordan Farmar who has seemingly left his slump from a few games back all the way behind him. Like Pau, Farmar used an effective jumper as a springboard to the rest of his offensive attack, using quick moves off the bounce to get into the lane and create shots near the rim. On several possessions, Farmar was able to blow by the initial defender and either get up a short runner or scoop shot in the paint before the second line of defense could get to him and the result was some nifty shotmaking that was key to fueling the Lakers’ offense when the more methodical Steve Blake went to the bench.

As for Young, he was once again excellent in providing a nice scoring punch from his reserve role. Young poured in 21 points on 15 shots, hitting 3 shots from behind the arc while also doing damage in the paint. On several possessions, Young curled his way into paint in the half court and made quick decisions to attack the rim in the open court and the result was an inside-outside game that I’d really like to see more of from Young. When he doesn’t solely settle for long jumpers — which can be exciting shots when they fall, but not the most efficient option — Young becomes quite dangerous and the type of all court threat who can carry the team for short stretches on the floor and ignite the crowd with the flair he brings.

Where this game was won, however, was on the defensive end of the floor. The Warriors were down their top two point guards (Steph Curry and Toney Douglas both sat out with injuries) and later lost Andre Iguodala to a strained hamstring, so we must acknowledge the Dubs didn’t have their full roster, affecting how they built their attack. That said, the Lakers were smart in how they defended the Warriors, pushing them to the corners and showing ball handlers and post players a second defender early in possessions to try and disrupt what they wanted to do on that side of the ball.

This strong side zone look flustered the Warriors for most of the night as the Lakers were able to force them into turnovers via traps on the sideline and by picking off hastily thrown cross-court passes when they tried to reverse the ball. The Lakers’ wings — Young, Blake, and Henry combined for 6 steals — were very good at dipping to the paint to help down low and then quickly rotating back to the opposite wing to either pick off passes when the ball was swung or pressuring ball handlers into mistakes on the catch. The Lakers turned 19 Warriors’ turnovers into 22 points and that activity and production were a big impact in how this game was decided.

All in all, this was a very good win for the Lakers despite the Dubs missing some key guys. After all, without Kobe, Nash, and Kaman, it’s not like the Lakers are at full strength, but they were still able to establish their identity and dictate the terms of engagement of this contest. Strong guard play and Pau playing well were the catalysts, but just as important was the team sticking to their game plan and executing it to a level that put the Warriors on their heels. Moving forward, with our without Kobe, this is the type of effort and attention to detail the team needs, especially when they don’t have four days to prepare.

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? The Lakers got their fifth win of the season in a fun Sunday night game against the Detroit Pistons (well, not so fun for Detroit), 114-99.

I felt Steve Blake set the tone early with his floor game. He had eight assists in the first period alone setting up his teammates on the right spots (like Wesley Johnson on alley-oops and Jordan Hill cutting to the basket). However, the Lakers defense seemed non-existent in the first half; the Pistons shot over 62 percent in the first 24. Detroit reminded the Lakers of their crosstown rivals with their alley-oops (that Brandon Jennings pass off the glass to Andre Drummond for the alley-oop was filthy).

Then the Lakers caught fire. Detroit’s shooting had to come down to Earth and, boy, did the Lakers take advantage. The Lakers turned up the defensive intensity, limiting the Pistons to 36 percent shooting in the second half. Jordan Hill seemed to be everywhere on both ends of the floor; he was scoring inside and outside and he was grabbing every rebound. And Nick Young (who continues to play well off the bench) ignited the run with back-to-back threes. Jordan Farmar caught fire as well (after a pretty bad slump the previous couple of games); he made a jumper to beat the third quarter buzzer. Overall, the Lakers scored 16 unanswered and by the time Jennings’ chucking finally started to pay off (he ended with 23 points and 14 assists), it was too late. What’s more: the Lakers were able to prevent Detroit from hitting the century mark, sending the fans at Staples with free food that starts with a “t” and ends with “-acos.”

Overall, this game was so much fun to watch (I think I already mentioned that, right?). Jordan Hill finished with an all-world performance of 24 points and 17 rebounds. Steve Blake had 16 assists (two short of his career high… and six short of ex-Laker Chris Duhon’s) to go along with his nine points. Blake has had double digits in assists in the last four games. Nick Young scored 19 points, his fourth straight game with double digits off the bench. Wesley Johnson had a few athletic plays that made you think he jumped off the rafters; he had 13 points. And Pau Gasol had a nice all-around game with 12 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.

Lakers won’t be playing again until Friday when they face the Golden State Warriors. I know the Lakers are 5-7 but, for now, let’s enjoy this win. And we can enjoy this for the next few days.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about this game. In what is becoming a trend this season, the Lakers played a hard fought game and kept the contest close only to fall short at the end as the other team made the tough plays while they themselves fell short.

This game it was Zach Randolph who played hero for Memphis hitting tough shot after tough shot against Jordan Hill while the Lakers tried, unsuccessfully, to play their P&R game against a Grizzlies’ D that can still stiffen with a game on the line. Randolph scored 14 of his game high 28 points in the final period, working over Shawne Williams early and Hill late with a flurry of contested jumpers and unorthodox scoops and hooks around the basket.

If you are looking for positives on the Lakers’ side, they came from the guards as Jodie Meeks (25 points, 10-16 shooting), Nick Young (18 points on 7-14 shooting off the bench), and Steve Blake (9 points, 10 assists and only 1 turnover) all played aggressive, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them. All deserve credit for playing to their strengths, but I especially like that Meeks was able to bounce back from a poor game in Denver and that Blake continued to play a very strong lead guard with Steve Nash out. Both guys are having pretty good years and even though there are some down moments, both play with a spirit and competitiveness that is contagious.

That’s about the most positive thing you can say about this team right now. They play hard most every night and that allows them to compete. If their execution could catch up to the effort they give they’d probably have a few more wins in the ledger. Instead, they fall to 4-7 on the season and show glimpses of being a good team but offer more moments when you wonder if they will really be able to do much more than stay close in games before Kobe comes back.

And make no mistake, this team misses Kobe. Not only did the head coach say so, but it’s clear that as the season progresses there’s a hole in leadership and production from a top tier player. Whether Kobe comes back to be that guy is an open question, but through the first part of year it’s clear that Gasol (who has played okay, but not up to a level the team needs from him) and Nash (who was playing poorly before his injury knocked him out of the lineup) are not those guys.

Instead this team relies on the composite effort from multiple role players, needing several of them to play to (or above) their ceilings each night to win. Against Memphis the team got that from Meeks, Young, and Blake, but did not get enough from any of the Farmar (zero points, 6 assists), Wes Johnson (zero points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), and Xavier Henry (zero points, 1 rebound, 1 assist) trio. When that’s the case, this team will need bigger performances from Gasol and Hill, but tonight did not get them. The duo combined for a respectable 22 points and 18 rebounds, but with Randolph’s big night and Marc Gasol producing a line of 18, 8, and 8 it’s easy to see why this game was a loss.

The Lakers fell to the Nuggets, 111-99, after blowing out the Pelicans last night. They are now 0-3 on the second game of a back-to-back.

After a quick 8-0 start by the Lakers, it showed that the Lakers were on the tail end of a back-to-back. They looked tired in the first half; it was like the Nuggets were on Windows 8.1 while the Lakers were on Windows 95.

Still, the Lakers had a pretty strong third quarter, holding Denver to under 29 percent shooting in that period. So from time to time, you’ll get some good defense from the Lakers. Unfortunately, the Lakers couldn’t stop Timofey Mozgov throughout the contest; he ended with 23 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks. We all know the Lakers’ penchant of letting role players have all-star nights; Mozgov was that guy tonight. Wilson Chandler, who played his first game this season, also made some big threes in the fourth that helped close the door on the Lakers.

Denver seemed to score at will inside the paint. They scored 22 of their 33 first quarter points in the painted area. The Nuggets would end up having 60 of those points at the end.

Pau Gasol had his best scoring output this season with 25 points (on 27 shots). But we now know he’s dealing with a strained foot to add to that upper respiratory infection. Jordan Hill helped the Lakers get some energy back in the second half; he had 18 points and 15 rebounds. Steve Blake played another excellent floor game with 15 points and 11 assists. But once again, like they did against the Pelicans, they let this one get away in the fourth quarter despite all the sloppiness that happened in the first three quarters. As much as they had that effort in the second half, it would’ve been nice if they were able to take advantage of those second, third, and fourth chances. And Nick Young, you probably don’t want to inbound the ball to somebody who has his back turned.

The Lakers have been wildly up and down thus far but with this level of talent from that team, that is to be expected. They go back to Staples Center and play against the struggling Memphis Grizzlies on Friday (on a personal note, Friday is my birthday!). L.A. starts a four-game home stand (and FOUR DAYS off coming up) then. They’d better take advantage as the Lakers are 1-4 on the road so far.

The Lakers have had more exciting wins in this brief season, but none have been more complete and less reliant on extremes than this one over the Pelicans. By finally combining a strong offensive performance with very good defensive effort and execution, the Lakers made up for their loss against this same team last Friday by dominating them 116-95.

As with every win this season, the Lakers’ bench was a key factor in this one. The Lakers’ reserves scored 56 of the team’s 116, led by efficient efforts from Nick Young and Xavier Henry. Young poured in 17 points on only 11 shots, canning jumpers from all over the floor. Henry, meanwhile, added 15 of his own on only 8 field goal attempts, knocking down all three of his shots from behind the arc while also having the play of night when he hammered home a dunk over his former Jayhawk teammate Jeff Withey.

http://youtu.be/1WnUuCHfow0

This contest, though, was more about what the starters provided. For the first time all season, the first five seemed to finally click, not only finding their rhythm but finding a way to maintain it for most of the night. And key to that was, seemingly, the shift that head coach Mike D’Antoni made with this group by putting a lineup on the floor that featured guys playing more in their traditional roles.Rather than playing a combination of a small back court and a super-sized front court, D’Antoni went with guys at their natural spots and it really seemed to pay off.

Instead of toiling away at shooting guard, Steve Blake stepped in for the injured Steve Nash and played a very smooth and controlled game all night. Blake probed the defense for openings, attacked when he found space, and, when he was able to draw a second (and sometimes a third) defender, made the right read to hit his teammates for open shots. Blake may have only scored 5 points on the evening, but he dished out 10 assists (to only 2 turnovers) and was the epitome of a floor general. Wes Johnson also slid into a more natural position as the starting small forward, rather than playing PF for most of his minutes. His production — 5 points and 5 rebounds — was nothing spectacular, but he played good defense on the wing and was aggressive when cutting to the rim and when attacking the glass.

The key to the starting lineup, however, was Jordan Hill. Moving out of his bench role and into the first group, Hill showed that his production when playing limited minutes wasn’t some fluke. Hill scored a team (and career) high 21 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds. Hill flashed his usual activity level on both ends of the floor and did a great job providing a physical presence in the paint, diving to the front of the rim out of the P&R on offense and challenging every shot he was within a couple of steps of defensively. Further, Hill showed very good chemistry with Pau Gasol, sliding into open spaces to make himself available for passes and ducking along the baseline when the Spaniard isolated in the post to ensure the proper spacing existed to allow for one-on-one work.

Taking a step back, then, it’s safe to say that while the individual performances were very good up and down the lineup, the bigger takeaway from this game was that D’Antoni deployed his players in personnel groupings and lineups that made more sense. Players were put in better positions to succeed by playing their more natural positions and that led to, at least from what we saw in terms of body language and how their games meshed, a greater sense of comfort from everyone. Beyond that, though, the substitution patterns and how bench and starters were mixed also made a lot of sense. The final result was a 10 man rotation in which every player saw good minutes and did so with a greater sense of purpose than at any other point during the year.

This isn’t to say that was the only reason the Lakers won. After dominating the Lakers this past Friday, Anthony Davis suffered through foul trouble for most of this game and was never really able to establish his presence on either end of the floor. With Davis on the bench, the Pelicans’ bigs had trouble matching up with Gasol, Kaman, and Hill on both ends which allowed the Lakers to control the paint and dictate the terms of engagement in the half court. Add to this the fact that the Lakers were playing at home and saw a lot of their jumpers fall and it’s difficult to just say “the rotation was better so the team won”. No, it was much more than that.

However, as noted above, the rotation and personnel groupings were smoother and the results were fantastic. On the evening the Lakers went with two primary lineups and both produced at levels that we’ve not really seen in the same game, for the full game, all year. The starters played 18 minutes together and posted an offensive efficiency of 115.7 and a defensive efficiency of 97.9 in those minutes. Meanwhile, the primary bench group of Farmar, Henry, Young, Williams, and Kaman played a combined 13 minutes together and posted an offensive efficiency of 114.8 and a defensive efficiency of 86.1 in those minutes. These numbers were definitely influenced by how poorly the ‘Cans played on both ends of the floor for long stretches, but you have to credit the Lakers for forcing them into a lot of bad shots, cleaning up their defensive glass, and then moving the ball and making the most of their offensive possessions on the other end.

Whether or not this lasts is something we don’t yet know. But D’Antoni may have finally found some lineups and rotations that work for this team in the long term, so beyond the great win, that is what should be celebrated after this game.